From ‘SNL’ to Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce basks but stays on task: Opinion…

From ‘SNL’ to Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce basks but stays on task: Opinion...

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Long before the worlds-colliding juxtaposition of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce hosting “Saturday Night Live” last year, quarterback Patrick Mahomes knew all too well the place the show held in the life of his friend and treasured target.

 

From ‘SNL’ to Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce basks but stays on task: Opinion...
Mahomes knew it was a dream of Kelce’s to merely appear on “SNL” because he spoke so often of the show and specific skits — including many that reflected the six-year-age difference between them.

“He was always telling me (about) ones from before I was even born, and I’m like, ‘Trav, I’m not the same age as you, dude, I don’t know what that is,’ ” Mahomes said, smiling. “It was definitely something that was a goal of his to just be on the show. But to be able to host it — and he crushed it, man.

“That’s something that hopefully longer down the line, if I can keep hanging him on, that he’ll be able to do more of that type of stuff after he’s done playing football.”

While Mahomes wasn’t suggesting that might be any time soon, his words nonetheless conjured a looming question after a year like no other for the 34-year-old Kelce. He was a natural in transferring his on-field flair for showmanship into the longtime cultural touchstone (including in a later cameo), thrives in performing with brother Jason on their must-hear “New Heights” podcast and has a certain charismatic presence on the numerous commercials in which he now appears.

Adding to a sense a new world is beckoning him is all of that being exponentially multiplied by his relationship with pop icon Taylor Swift.

In the process, Kelce has ascended into an entirely new frontier of celebrity beyond what he already was enjoying as arguably the greatest ever to play the game at his position — a legacy he can add to when the Chiefs play in the AFC championship game on Sunday at Baltimore, with a chance to reach their fourth Super Bowl in five years and become the first to repeat as champions in nearly two decades.

“I’d be silly to say I didn’t notice (the attention) go up,” Kelce said Friday. “I think the Super Bowl helped that, and obviously how I live my off-field life definitely helps out.

“But I brought this upon myself, and I do enjoy having fun with it all. And the biggest thing is making sure my focus is right here in this building.”

Kelce acknowledged the challenge in that. But it’s inside-out from what his critics were suggesting through a season in which he ebbed from 110 catches to 93, his receiving yards fell from 1,338 to 984 and his touchdown total diminished from 12 to five.

Never mind that the numbers probably would have looked a lot more like the year before if he hadn’t played in two fewer games and likely had to cope with injuries more than meets the eye.

The foremost challenge, he said, was the outside noise of “dealing with everyone else’s perspective of things.”

In particular, he added, were suggestions that when the team was struggling, or Kelce was in a dry spell, “that I wasn’t focused or that the team isn’t focused on certain things.”

If anything, Kelce indicated, he was more inclined to overcompensate the other way.

“You’ve got to compartmentalize what you’re hearing and make sure that you’re staying on task,” he said, “and giving everybody in the building or on the team the right perception when you walk in the building.”

Asked if he’d spoken with Swift about how to deal with such circumstances, Kelce said, “The only thing that we talk about is that as long we’re happy, we can’t listen to anything that’s outside noise.”

Given the statistical downtick, the appearance at times that he has less burst and spring now — and even speculation that he may wish to retire with brother Jason, if the latter’s retirement indeed becomes official — it’s natural for there to be some outside noise that retirement is something he’ll consider after this season.

In fact, there’s been some inside noise about that: In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in November, Kelce said he thinks about retirement “more than anyone could ever imagine.”

But in an interview session with local media two weeks ago, Kelce said, “I have no reason to stop playing football. I love it. We still have success. … I just like the challenge that it gives me every single day to try and be at my best. I have no desire to stop any time soon.”

He reiterated the point on Friday as he spoke about the blessings of playing with Mahomes, with whom he has produced more postseason touchdowns (16) than any other tandem in NFL history and three of the most prolific five seasons (in terms of receiving yards) any tight end has had.